Jack Kahn is a 12 year old drag queen who currently goes by the drag persona Jackaranda and Cherry (17) goes by the stage name Cherry Ripe. Both enjoy a following amongst the South Coast communities around Wollongong, which unfortunately has also made them a target of adult bullies.

Not to be cowed down, the teen drag queens have been actively raising money for and awareness about bullying. Jackaranda hosted and Cherry Ripe performed at the second iteration of the Jackaranda says NO to Bullying event, which was held on April 12, months after the first one. They also marched in this year’s Mardi Gras parade for the first time, with anti-bullying charity ‘Wear It Purple’.

Misogyny Is A Type Of Bullying

Jackaranda and Cherry Ripe talked to the Star Observer and spoke passionately about politics and bullying.

Cherry Ripe mentioned how they referenced a different type of bullying in one of their performances – misogyny.

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“I like to bring a little bit of politics to drag when I can. At one of my shows, I performed the Julia Gillard misogyny speech, you know about Tony Abbott, and mixed that into a punk chant and I got the whole audience to chant political chants and it was a very, very fun night,” said Cherry.

The drag queens, spoke about the support they’ve had while running their various events, 

“With social issues and politics, like bullying and stuff, we have received lots of support from local politicians like (ALP MP) Paul Scully and the mayor of Wollongong, Gordon Bradbery. The police force have been there to support us, we had the Teachers Association and the NSW Department of Education, it was really really cool,” said Cherry.  

“There are were lots of people who were interested in supporting us,” said Jackaranda.

Tackling Bullies Online & Offline

Jackaranda and Cherry are serious about shining a light on bullying.

“Because it does hit close to home and being a young queer – also it is important to note that we’re not just about queers and supporting queers – it is bullying in general that we’re fighting against,” explained Cherry.

“It is minorities that get bullied more and being a young queer person, I felt like I had no one to go to or, no support. It was quite isolating and it just makes me happy to think that I can try and make people feel less isolated and more supported.”

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Jackaranda echoes the sentiments.  “I’ve been bullied like a HELLUVA lot by people in my community, mostly, pretty much all adults actually, lots of adults on social media telling me that I should eliminate myself from existing.”

A 12-year-old  getting these messages on social media from grown adults, hiding behind the anonymity of a computer screen, is how bullying and hate manifests on social media.

Drag Queens Are Supportive

“One thing I get so much is how bad it is for a kid my age to be doing drag and amongst drag queens. One of the biggest things I hear is I’m being forced to do this. I’m doing what I want and can stop whenever I want,” clarifies Jackaranda.

Jackaranda reveals how other drag queens have supportive and they always ensure that the situation is appropriate for their age.

“Drag can be adjusted and works for all ages. I only perform appropriately. If I’m in a show that isn’t G rated I perform and leave. I don’t watch the other performances. I’m always in an under 18 dressing room and fully supervised by my parent.  The other queens are always appropriate around me.”

“Roxee Horror, my drag mum has given me many opportunities to learn from experience while performing and I just got to perform in her show. That was the biggest ever drag show in the Illawarra with over 500 people and she is doing another big production like this in August.” 

“So I’m lucky to be given opportunities by professionals. I’m expressing art and performing,” added Jackaranda.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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